Best women’s perfumes and fragrances 2021: hit the right notes
You don’t have to have the olfactory detectors of a sniffer dog to know what fragrances you don’t like the whiff of, but it’s hard pinpointing the fragrance you want to splurge on when you’re so spoilt for choice. With every high-profile brand and celebrity churning out a new scent every other month we’re hard-pushed to pinpoint which ones really stand out, and which just cause a stink.
We’ve had our work cut out spritzing and sniffing our way through a load of female fragrances this week, but it’s our job to fall on that sword for you…
How to buy the best perfume
When on the hunt for the perfect scent, it’s hard to judge what will suit just by taking a sniff from the bottle.
A good fragrance should have a balance of complimentary scents, longevity and one that matches your personality. Essential oils deliver more than synthetics in terms of longevity and balance.
If you’re not sure what sort of scent you, or the intended recipient of the perfume, likes, scent types or “families” can provide some guidance. With men’s as well as women’s fragrances, the buzzwords to look out for are floral, fresh, fruity, citrus, oriental, woody and spicy.
Use these straightforward descriptors as a starting point, and find the notes (for example rose, jasmine, bergamot or vetiver) that appeal to you to narrow it down.
Lisa Shackley, Givenchy Beauty Expert tells us:
“It’s important not to wear perfume or scented body products when shopping for a new fragrance as this can alter the development of the chosen scent.
“Always try the fragrance on the skin to see how it develops and how it ultimately matches your personality. I wouldn’t recommend trying more than three to four different scents at one time.”
Whilst buying perfume for someone else is often a daunting task, we’ve rounded up the best 10 sure to win over anyone so, pick your poison…
These are the 33 best women’s perfumes:
Chanel N°5 is a timeless, iconic fragrance, earning its spot at the top of our best perfume list. It was created in 1921 and differed from other perfumes at the time due to its unique structure. Chanel N°5 was tangy, sparkly, almost champagne-like. It completely changed perfume forever.
This perfume is classified as a refined, floral, soft fragrance. This feminine scent possesses a blend of modern floral’s with sandalwood and vanilla. It’s completely unmistakable and timeless, with top notes of Neroli that blends into the sensual, floral notes of two exceptional raw materials, May Rose and Jasmine.
Of course, it’s an iconic fragrance, and the bottle is equally iconic, with a minimalist design and hand-sealed with a baudruche film.
‘A daisy is a friendly flower, not precious, not exotic, but it evokes a spirit in a lot of women,’ according to Marc Jacobs, and this is perfectly encapsulated by this charmingly simple fragrance.
It’s pure and playful, with top notes of succulent wild berries and soft white violets, leaving an irresistibly fresh and radiant scent on the skin. At the heart, velvety jasmine compliments the vibrancy of the florals, while a dry down of sandalwood imparts an aura of warmth and sensuality.
Daisy by Marc Jacobs makes an ideal gift, with a whimsical, retro-inspired bottle.
J’adore Eau de Parfum is an essential women’s floral fragrance by Dior. It features a bouquet finely crafted down to the last detail, uniting essence of ylang-ylang with its floral-fruity notes; essence of Damascus Rose from Turkey; and a blend of Jasmine Grandiflorum from Grasse and Indian Sambac Jasmine. It’s a very mature fragrance, so perfect for a more mature woman, and is presented in a sensual, curvaceous amphora bottle.
Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum is an explosive floral bouquet, with tens of Cattleyas, hundreds of Sambac Jasmine, thousands of freesia, and millions of rose petals enriched by an addictive scent of patchouli and vanilla. Prepare for a floral explosion of a mood-lifting and positive-vibes. Flowerbomb isn’t too overpowering, however, but the sweet scent lasts for ages.
Angel is a delicate blend of sweet red fruits, soft caramel, honey and praline combined with the captivating power of patchouli and vanilla. Angel is a luxurious, chic and timeless fragrance with a seductive edge, perfect for everyday spritzing and totally irresistible. Plus, this perfume looks great on a dressing table, with the striking star-shaped bottle.
CK One is an iconic fragrance that is unapologetically bold, yet exudes youthful, fresh simplicity. Bringing together refreshing notes of green tea, papaya, and bergamot, and perfectly balanced with soft accents of nutmeg, violet, cardamom, and rose, CK One harmonizes feminine floral and masculine musk into one unisex scent.
The Lime Basil and Mandarin Cologne is a signature fragrance from Jo Malone and has become a modern classic. It’s quintessentially British and luxurious, perfectly blending citrus and herbal hues, revealing a unique scent which is both revitalising and relaxing. This fragrance evokes a Caribbean breeze, transporting you to a world of calm. Drying down to the base note of Amberwood, the cologne leaves you with a comforting presence, familiar and warming.
Intensely green and fresh, Gucci Bloom Acqua di Fiori “celebrates the joy and energy of youth”. It’s created by master perfumer Alberto Morillas, and blends the subtle musky tones of Galbanum leaves and the delicate spiciness of Cassis buds with the blooming floral notes of the original Gucci Bloom fragrance. The fragrance is uplifting and feminine, delivered in a pale pink bottle that is embellished with a whimsical floral print reflecting the scent’s fresh and energetic notes.
La Vie est Belle’s delightfully feminine bottle, with its delicate gauze accents and pink hue, is just as sweet as its contents. With iris, jasmine and orange blossom at its heart; juicy pear and blackcurrant at the top; and patchouli, tonka and patchouli at the base, this is an unashamedly girly perfume for day or evening wear. It may be too sickly for some, but for lovers of gourmand and sweet scents, it’s certain to be a winner.
A scent so good you’ll want to spritz twice, or even three times for that matter. Inspired by the blue sky, Cobalt Patchouli & Cedar exudes celebration, enthusiasm, and a new-found intensity for enjoying life. True to Jo’s signature style, Cobalt Patchouli & Cedar is a fresh cologne scent with a clean, crisp air. Powerful base notes give this fragrance a unique intensity, while the classic notes of vetiver, patchouli and cedarwood take on an eclectic twist to create a captivating new scent. Jo Loves, we love.
A true cologne with a citrus cut-through, it’s a timeless arpeggio of moss and white musk with citrus and floral notes. You’ll also notice hints of lemon, geranium, black pepper and litsea cubeba. The fragrance is truly genderless so you can share it with your partner. You’ll also be happy to display the stylish Art Deco-inspired bottle on your dresser. The fragrance is responsibly sourced, cruelty-free and vegan.
A hugely popular fragrance, Paco Rabanne Lady Million Eau de Parfum is a luxurious, sexy fragrance designed to make any woman feel a million dollars. It features top notes of Raspberry, Amalfi Lemon and Neroli, heart notes of Gardenia, African Orange Flower and Jasmine and base notes of White Honey Patchouli and Amber. The result is fresh and playful, making Paco Rabanne Lady Million a seductive scent. The bold diamond-shaped bottle, dressed in gold will look stunning on any dressing table
Enjoy timeless elegance with Giorgio Armani Si Eau de Parfum spray. This inviting scent is fused with Mandarin Oil, Roses de Mai, Blond Woods, Amber and Vanille to create a powerful and exuberant fragrance that you will want to take with you for years to come. It’s housed in a sleek and effortlessly classic bottle, Giorgio Armani Si Eau de Parfum spray is the must-have scent for the modern woman.
Le Labo has been described at ‘the haute couture of the fragrance industry’ and Santal 33 is the perfect example of that. Drawing inspiration from the old Marlboro ads (the American West and the masculinity of the great American cowboy), Santal 33 has an intoxicating aroma of spicy, leathery, musky notes that give this unisex fragrance a unique allure.
This fresh white floral fragrance is perfectly blended and is steeped in mystery with its hints of iris, rose, African orange flower, pink pepper, musk and benzoin. The fragrance should remind you of summer nights, engulfed in the sweetness of a fresh sea breeze. The scent works its wonders to invigorate the senses, helping the wearer to feel refreshed, energised and full of vitality.
Coach Dreams is inspired by a sunny road trip through the American West. Opening with notes of fresh fruit and finishing with lasting woody notes, it takes you on a journey from beginning to end, evoking anticipation, the open road and memories in the making. The radiant, woody scent opens with notes of bitter orange and juicy pear, revealing a heart of gardenia and cactus flower before drying down to sensual Joshua Tree and Ambroxan musk.
This colourful, fresh, floral fruity Eau de Toilette reflects the sensuality and joy of the Mediterranean lifestyle. Sicilian cedar combines with the freshness of the Green apple and the floral allure and spontaneity of the bluebell, the top note captures the essence of a sunny South Italian summer. The freshness of bamboo softens with a feminine bouquet of jasmine and white rose.
The bottle is a timeless design inspired by the classic Dolce & Gabbana parfum, Light Blue shape is confident but always very feminine. Its light blue cap evokes the clear skies of the Mediterranean.
The second Channel perfume on this list – this time an oriental fragrance with a strong yet surprisingly fresh personality. Sparks of fresh and vibrant orange immediately awaken the senses, while a clear and sensual heart reveals the transparent accords of Jasmine and Rose. The trail unfurls the pure accents of Patchouli and Vetiver that emphasise the slender structure of the composition.
The new Miss Dior Eau de Parfum reveals the femininity of a sensual floral fragrance. Its heart is a floral declaration that combines the beauty of Grasse rose with the boldness of Damascus rose, both wrapped in a ribbon of fresh notes of Calabrian bergamot. This handcrafted creation is woven with rosewood from French Guiana and pink pepper from Reunion Island for heightened character.
Tiffany & Co Eau de Parfum is a radiant and modern scent that opens with vibrant top notes of vert de mandarine. At its heart, the precious iris flower, this signature ingredient adds strength and femininity that grounds the composition with refinement and sophistication. The fragrance then dries down to a sensual finish on the skin with warm nuances of patchouli wrapped in gentle musky notes.
The crystal bottle recalls the iconic Tiffany Lucida and Tiffany Yellow Diamond cuts. Inside, a delicate juice with the slightest tint of blue illuminates the precise cuts of the bottle. The fragrance is presented in the signature Tiffany Blue Box, an internationally recognised symbol of style, sophistication, and luxury.
This scent takes the classic rose and ingeniously translates it into a vibrant perfume: feminine, natural and sexy, suited to a free spirit, according to the marketing copy. The fragrance is a combination of floral powder notes, sprightly hints of peony and lychee, and the embellishment of springtime freesia. The airy, flirtatious head notes drift away to reveal the heady magnolia and lily of the valley, as well as subtle intimations of warm amber and elegant cedarwood.
Introducing My Burberry Blush, a fruity floral Eau de Parfum with a sparkling twist. Stepping back into a London garden awakening in the first light of day, My Burberry Blush captures the senses as blossoming flowers pop with spirited energy. Created by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian and Christopher Bailey, the fragrance opens with glazed pomegranate and vibrant lemon. Delicate rose petal notes are lifted with crisp apple, while a base of jasmine and wisteria round off the scent for an intensely feminine touch.
Miu Miu L’Eau Rosée perfume sparkles with contemporary energy and indulges in the enduring classics. The fragrance has a soft floral juice created from lily of the valley and cassis buds, tightly wrapped in notes of sophisticated musk. The effect is freshness encapsulated.
As its name suggests, L’Eau Rosée is dewy and alive, a brand new olfactory chapter that stays true to the youthful Miu Miu story
The attention is captured by a sensuous blend of Black Truffle and Ylang mingled with fresh Bergamot and delectable Black Currant. A dramatic signature unfolds with the custom-made Tom Ford Black Orchard blended with dark, tempting florals and rich fruit accords. The heart is deepened with the intoxicating Lotus Wood. The decadent Noir Gourmand Accord is balanced by Patchouli-incense and Vetiver. Vanilla tears add a fluid creaminess to warm Balsam and smooth Sandalwood.
Originally released in 1993, this fragrance is a classic. The irresistible sweetness of orange blossom is combined with the powerful aphrodisiac notes of ginger. The scent of rice powder, a reminder of his childhood, is given a new twist with the caressing strength of vanilla.
Perhaps even more iconic than the scent is the bottle – a tribute to the beauty of women. Etched on the transparent glass is the quintessential item in Jean Paul Gaultier’s female wardrobe, the corset.
Cartier’s La Panthere is sophisticated and indulgent, a perfect cocktail for evenings out. It’s a bold fragrance with detectable notes of musk and nuances of fruity flavours. Use sparingly, one spritz and you’re set for the day – or night!
A bright and breezy scent reminiscent of long summer days. Eau de Givenchy is a perfect harmony of citrus and floral scents the perfect refreshing pick-me-up. If you want something feminine that dances between floral and fruity, this is a great option for you.
Kenzo world is like bottled joy. It’s a light, jubilant scent that’s got base notes of peonies but a dominant scent of pear. An ideal summer scent that requires topping up throughout the day.
Beautiful is a time-honoured classic, and little wonder. Upon application, the scent is apparently light and floral. Estée Lauder then intend for the heady rose and lily to eventually soften out into jasmin and ylang ylang before warming to a rich, woody base of sandalwood and vetiver. Reviewers have noted that, once on, it stays put, making it a delightful, long-lasting fragrance for day time. A fabulous gift for Mums for Christmas, or just because.
Never has a perfume been named so aptly; everything from Decadence’s emerald green glass and tactile python cap to its sensual and exotic aromas has been intended as a heady luxurious treat. Marc Jacobs have infused some unusual notes — orris, plum, saffron, and papyrus woods, to name a few — making for a devilishly grown-up fragrance that’s perfect for evening wear. Its popularity among reviewers is undoubted, and with its Instagram-worthy design, it’s a great gift for romantic partners (or for keeping for yourself).
Ghost intended for this fragrance to emanate the image of fledgling love. Infusing blends of fresh mint and lemon with subtle floral scents, Ghost have made sure the sweetness and the excitement is there. White flowers make up the heart; a woody base brings it down to earth; and there’s a powdery, almost talc-like impression as it dries down. The common word is that the scent is a little spontaneous, but Sweetheart manages a wide appeal all the same, making it the perfect gift for tricky-to-buy-for young ladies.
With top notes of bergamot and pink pepper and a smooth sandalwood base, Micheal Kors have developed a beautifully balanced fragrance that reviewers say moves effortlessly from fresh and zingy to soft and mellow over the course of wear. The on-trend ombre bottle with its sunset hues and the luxe gold cap (reminiscent of MK’s famous hardware), have been designed to evoke the memory of a warm summer evening – much like the fragrance inside. For the big Michael Kors fan in your life, or for anyone who would like a deliciously exotic and unexpected fragrance, this makes a great gift.
This wonderfully fresh unisex cologne from posh parfumier Jo Malone is just the ticket if you want a light, subtle scent, but tend to find florals cloying. The clean, citrusy neroli has been used to instill the sense of a breath of fresh air, while the basil infuses a clean herbiness that helps to create the playful and fun connotations that Jo Malone is going for. Like many of Malone’s perfumes, this scent is uncluttered for everyday use and the perfect choice for people who don’t do perfume.
Benefit promise there’s an abundance of light white florals, a hit of jammy apricot and sharp white ginger, and a hint of musk, which makes this sweet fragrance an ideal first perfume for teens. With its playful packaging, it’s undoubtedly girly in its approach, but is more complex than you might expect at first glance. Reviewers say it strikes the right balance between noticeable and subtle, and dries down to a mellow powdery scent. A great stocking filler for daughters and granddaughters, but a lovely flirty scent for Benefit fans of all ages, too.